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Here’s Why We Will Definitely Attempt a Landing on Europa

A newly-reprocessed color view of Europa made from images taken by NASA's Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

A color view of Europa made from images taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in the late 1990s. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SETI Institute

Both the book and the movie 2010 told us we can pretty much go wherever we want in the Solar System except Europa; “ATTEMPT NO LANDING THERE.” But Europa is exactly where we should go, especially if we want to take advantage of the best chances we know of to find extraterrestrial life. This ice-covered cue ball moon of Jupiter harbors a subsurface ocean with more liquid water than found on the surface of Earth and its surface is stained with streaks of organic compounds. Everything we know about life on Earth and Europa indicates that there’s a habitable environment located just a few miles below its ice, right now, waiting for us to not only attempt a landing but drill down and take a look around. Fortunately, this is exactly what some scientists at NASA are planning on doing.

Read more in Bob King’s article on Universe Today here.

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Europa’s Icy Crust May Be Warmer Than We Thought

Chaos terrain on Europa suggests subsurface lakes. (NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

Galileo image of Europa’s cracked crust (NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)

All the worlds may be ours except Europa but that only makes the ice-covered moon of Jupiter all the more intriguing. Beneath Europa’s thin crust of ice lies a tantalizing global ocean of liquid water somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 kilometers deep—which adds up to more liquid water than is on the entire surface of the Earth. Liquid water plus a heat source(s) to keep it liquid plus the organic compounds necessary for life and…well, you know where the thought process naturally goes from there.

And now it turns out Europa may have even more of a heat source than we thought. Yes, a big component of Europa’s water-liquefying warmth comes from tidal stresses enacted by the massive gravity of Jupiter as well as from the other large Galilean moons. But exactly how much heat is created within the moon’s icy crust as it flexes has so far only been loosely estimated. Now, researchers from Brown University in Providence, RI and Columbia University in New York City have modeled how friction creates heat within ice under stress, and the results were surprising.

Read the rest of this article on Universe Today here.

Beyond the Edge of Jupiter: Europa Rising

Europa seen beyond the limb of Jupiter by New Horizons on Feb. 28, 2007 (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

Europa seen beyond the limb of Jupiter by New Horizons on Feb. 28, 2007 (NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

One of the most beautiful images of Jupiter and its ice-covered moon Europa was actually taken by the New Horizons spacecraft destined for Pluto! The view above was captured by New Horizon’s LORRI imager from a distance of 1.4 million miles from Jupiter on Feb. 28, 2007 just after it made its closest pass of the giant planet.

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An Ocean Beyond Earth: Europa Awaits

It’s no secret that Earth’s ocean is filled with life, much of it still a mystery or totally unknown to science. But what about the ocean on other worlds? I’m not talking about sci-fi planets or suspected alien Earths around other stars, but right here in our own solar system, where an ocean even deeper than ours lies hidden beneath a global shell of ice.

Scientists believe there is an ocean hidden beneath the surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa. In the video above, NASA-JPL astrobiologist Kevin Hand explains why scientists are so excited about the potential of this ice-covered world to answer one of humanity’s most profound questions: does life exist beyond Earth?

To learn more about Europa click here, and see the latest enhanced version of a Galileo image of Europa below:

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Europa Is Covered In Bacon. That Is Why We Must Go.

A newly-released image of Europa's surface captured by Galileo (NASA/JPL)

A newly-released image of Europa’s surface captured by Galileo (NASA/JPL)

Whether you’re a trend-loving hipster, a breakfast lover, or just fan of meat products in general, you’d have to agree that it does look like a giant piece of bacon* running across the image above. And while the color and shape seems about right, the size and temperature is a bit off — that’d be a piece of fried pork 25 miles wide and -300ºF!

All kidding aside, this is actually a newly-released picture of the frozen surface of Jupiter’s moon Europa, made from images acquired by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft in 1997 and 1998. The dark coloration of the river-like bands is thought to be the result of organic compounds staining the water ice that has welled up from the moon’s deep subsurface ocean… all the more reason that yes, we really should attempt a landing there in the very near future!

Read more about this in my article on Universe Today here.

*No pigs were harmed in the production of this image.

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